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Design Articles

Alternative Energy

Plug-In Cars Connecting with Consumers
Clean Vehicles Program

by Union of Concerned Scientists

Sales of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), including both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, are up significantly over last year. More than 59,000 EVs were sold in the United States by the end of August — already surpassing EV sales for all of 2012. More...

Supercapacitors Increase Range of Electric Vehicles
By Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx

Wireless sensors and remote controllers can operate without batteries if you use energy harvesting devices to harvest energy from the environment. However, if you use a microharvester, you must make tradeoffs between finding available energy and device energy consumption. This task is less difficult if you have a way to make power-related measurements that can accurately show the dynamic nature of low-power devices. This article explores what it takes to design low-power devices to use with microharvesters. More...

Designing Wireless Devices Powered by Microharvesters
By Carlo Canziani, Agilent Technologies, Inc.

Wireless sensors and remote controllers can operate without batteries if you use energy harvesting devices to harvest energy from the environment. However, if you use a microharvester, you must make tradeoffs between finding available energy and device energy consumption. This task is less difficult if you have a way to make power-related measurements that can accurately show the dynamic nature of low-power devices. This article explores what it takes to design low-power devices to use with microharvesters. More...

Fundamentals of Energy Storage in Energy Harvesting Applications
By Jim Drew, Senior Applications Engineer, Linear Technologies

The goal of an energy harvesting (EH) system is to extract intermittently available energy from ambient energy sources such as light, thermal difference and vibrations, and use the energy to perform useful work. As the ambient energy available is relatively modest, energy harvesting systems are more suited for low power, low duty rate applications such as wireless sensor networks, structural health monitoring and asset tracking. More...

Energy Harvester Produces Power from Local Environment, Eliminating Batteries in Wireless Sensors
By Jim Drew, Senior Applications Engineer, Linear Technologies

Recent advances in ultra-low-power microcontrollers have produced devices that offer unprecedented levels of integration for the amount of power they require to operate. These are systems on a chip with aggressive power saving schemes, such as shutting down power to idle functions. In fact, so little power is needed to run these devices that many sensors are going wireless, since they can readily run from batteries. More...

Energy Harvesting Widens Opportunities for Microbatteries
Linnea Brush, Senior Research Analyst, Darnell, Inc.

Currently, most energy harvesting technologies are using battery back-up and are likely to for several years to come. Companies are trying to find appropriate energy storage alternatives to traditional batteries, however. Batteries are problematic for large-scale wireless applications. Today’s cost premium is typically below what it costs to swap the battery one at a time, including battery cost, labor and so on. Over an expected lifetime of 15 years, a self-powered sensor could provide “significant” cost savings. More...

Simple techniques to Improve Solar Panel efficiency using a Microcontroller or SoC
By Udayan Umapathi and Gautam Das G, Cypress Semiconductor

Today, people are more concerned about fossil fuel exhaustion and environmental problems caused by conventional power generation and renewable energy sources than ever before. Among the renewable resources, photovoltaic panels and wind-generators are primary contenders. They have the advantage of being maintenance and pollution-free, but their installation cost is high and, in most applications, they require a power conditioner (dc/dc or dc/ac converter) for load interface. Photo Voltaic modules (PV Modules) also have relatively low conversion efficiency. More...


Integrated MPPT Charge Controller and LED Driver
Anshul Gulati and Srinivas NVNS, Cypress Semiconductor

Traditional charge controllers seldom take into consideration the loading on a solar panel and thus don't derive the complete available energy from the panel. This is where maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controllers come into the picture. More...


Analog/Mixed Signal

Leveraging ADC Technology to Capture, Compute and Communicate in Microcontroller-Based Embedded Systems
By Douglas Piasecki, Design Manager, Microcontroller Products, Silicon Laboratories.

System designers using microcontrollers (MCUs) continue to benefit from Moore’s Law with ever-increasing, feature-rich functionality available in smaller footprints and at lower costs. Today’s MCU suppliers are busy analyzing the marketplace for opportunities to improve or increase the MCU’s integrated peripheral functions and ease of use while expanding connectivity to the Internet of Things. More...


Challenges in Low-Power Verification in Mixed-Signal
Prabal Bhattacharya and Don O'Riordan, Cadence Design Systems, Inc.

This is the third and final weekly installment serializing Cadence's recently published "Mixed-Signal Methodology Guide". This installment details some common challenges that verification tools must address with low-power specification for mixed-signal design. More...


Low-Power and Mixed-Signal Design
Prabal Bhattacharya and Don O'Riordan, Cadence Design Systems, Inc.

This is the second of three weekly installments serializing Cadence's recently published "Mixed-Signal Methodology Guide". This installment provides an overview of low-power, mixed-signal design; issues in converting between analog and digital signals; and using the low-power specification to control analog power supplies. More...


Low-Power and Mixed-Signal Design
Mladen Nizic, Engineering Director Mixed Signal Solutions, Cadence Design Systems, Inc.

This is the first of three weekly installments serializing Cadence's recently published "Mixed-Signal Methodology Guide". This installment provides an overview of low-power and mixed-signal design. More...


How Analog and Digital Designing Differs
Bonnie Baker, Senior Applications Engineer, Texas Instruments

Over the course of my career, I have worked with a wide spectrum of analog and digital designers. Each one has their own quirks and reasons why they can’t do everything. In this article the digital designer will find some helpful tips when diving into the “darker (analog) side” of designing circuits. Or, from my perspective, they are finally rising to the light. More...


It’s a Mixed-Signal World
Kishore Karnane, Product Marketing Director, Cadence

It’s often said that most of today’s designs are mixed signal, and that mixed-signal verification remains one of the biggest design challenges. A typical chip design today is a complete system with millions of gates that make up large numbers of DSPs, memories and processors, all of which must interface with the real world through displays, antennas, sensors, and cables. This requires unprecedented integration of analog and digital content, without compromising performance or size, and on a technology scale that dramatically increases vulnerability to process and electrical variation. More...


The Design and Verification Challenge for the Next Decade
Linda Fosler, Director of Marketing, Mentor Graphics Deep Submicron Division

“The real world is analog and computers are digital.” These nine words set the stage for the great circuit design challenges of the next decade. To quote G. Dan Hutchenson, president of VLSI Research, “virtual reality is possible only with mixed-signal chips,” and of course, every designer on the planet, from the creators of advanced weaponry to smart phones and cars that nearly drive themselves, is hot on the trail of virtual reality. More...


Intelligent Integration of the CDMA RF Front End
Allen Chien, Saul Espino, and Won Kyu Kim, Wireless Semiconductor Division, Avago Technologies

Today’s mobile devices are quite complex, with many RF radios packed into an ever shrinking footprint. How to pack more radio components into less space? Shrinking the individual radio components is the obvious one, while integration of the individual parts is the other. More...


The Evolution of Touchscreens in Portable Consumer Electronics
By Darrin Vallis, Director, Touchscreen Solutions, Cypress Semiconductor

In 1997, the Motorola Startac and Palm Pilot were state of the art consumer electronics for the mobile professional. They were superb tools for staying in touch with customers, managing your calendar and organizing contacts. More...




Audio

New System Partitioning
Luca Cacioli, Texas Instruments

Cell phones, portable navigation devices and portable media players are built around one main host processor that acts as the brain of the device and runs all the software needed to make the product work, such as audio and video streaming or Internet connections. Implementing a novel system partitioning, in such a way that not everything is controlled by these processors, can help reduce the development time. More...

High Efficiency Audio Designs for Portable Devices
Henry Kwok, Senior Applications Engineer, National Semiconductor Corporation

With an ever increasing feature set found in today’s portable devices, a mobile phone can now function as a multimedia playback system, digital still camera and personal digital assistant (PDA). A portable media player (PMP) is now a navigation system, music player, global positioning system (GPS) and digital film library. Several systems are available with MP3 / MP4 playback, GPS, TV and gaming with web browser. Most manufacturers are now placing a greater emphasis on sound quality because sound is a key element to differentiate their products. Some manufacturers will even put more than one speaker in a system to improve the sound quality and output level. More...

Reducing EMI in Class D Audio Applications by Spread Spectrum Modulation Techniques
Bill McCulley, Staff Applications Engineer, National Semiconductor Corp.

The use of Class D audio amplifiers has become increasingly widespread in portable applications. As complexity, size and audio performance have improved, the Class D topology continues to gain market share. So compelling a benefit is efficiency that Class D amplifiers are now used extensively in portable designs worldwide, as battery life and small profile become key differentiators for end-users. The efficiency advantage is more pronounced when one realizes the typical audio application will normally operate at less than one-third of the total output power specified. More...

Active Noise Cancellation Comes to Mobile Phones
David Monteith, VP Business Development, Wolfson Microelectronics

All of us have experienced trying to make a mobile phone call from a noisy street, crowded restaurant or train station where the background noise can make it impossible to hear the incoming call. It can be worse when the person next to you in these situations is yelling into the receiver in an attempt to be heard. Active and passive noise canceling technologies can minimize background noise in high end headphones; however these technologies today can not provide the same benefits in mobile handsets. Clearly mobile handsets could benefit from noise cancellation. More...



Circuits & Systems

Pin-Compatible Digital Isolated Gate Drivers Make Life Easy for Power Designers
By Don Alfano, Director of Isolation Products
Silicon Labs

The first transformer-based, isolated gate drive solutions were quickly discarded when optocoupler-based gate drivers (opto-drivers) emerged. For the last three decades, opto-drivers have been the “go-to” isolated gate driver solution because they provide isolated gate drive functionality and inherent high-side level shifting in a single package.  More...


Variable Speed Motor Control using a Microcontroller
Steve Williams, Marketing Manager
Analog & Imaging Division, Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc.

Most readers will remember the feel of magnets moving in their hands like live things as opposing magnetic fields push against each other. Those are the forces that make electric motors turn: a rotating magnetic field pulls the rotor along after it.  More...


Advanced Galvanic Isolation Technology Brings Efficiency and Reliability to Consumer Motor Control
By Don Alfano, Director of Power Products, Silicon Labs

CMOS-based isolation technology has given rise to isolated gate drivers, multi-channel digital isolators and AC current sensors that offer significant gains in performance and reliability compared to legacy galvanic isolation techniques. More...


Prototyping with Frequency-Flexible Crystal Oscillators
By Phil Callahan, Sr. Marketing Manager, Timing Products, Silicon Labs

Developers of new systems ideally should make decisions regarding clocking requirements early in the design process. Although clocking rates are critical parameters that should be known in advance, determining these rates sometimes requires experimentation and re-evaluation. More...


MEMS Motion Sensors: The Technology Behind the Technology
John Donovan, Low-Power Design

A small niche product five years ago, MEMS sensors now constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. So what exactly are MEMS motion sensors and how do they work? More...


Integrated MPPT Charge Controller and LED Driver
Anshul Gulati and Srinivas NVNS, Cypress Semiconductor

Traditional charge controllers seldom take into consideration the loading on a solar panel and thus don't derive the complete available energy from the panel. This is where maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controllers come into the picture. More...


Resistive Touch Sensing Primer
Robert Cravotta, Embedded Insights

Resistive touch sensors consist of several panels coated with a metallic film, such as ITO (indium tin oxide), which is a transparent and electrically conductive. Thin spacer dots separate the panels from each other. When something, such as a finger (gloved or bare) or a stylus presses on the layers, it causes the two panels to make contact and closes an electrical circuit so that a controller can detect and calculate where the pressure is being applied to the panels. The controller can communicate the position of the pressure point as a coordinate to the application software. More...


The Importance of a Bridge Architecture in Tablets
Manu Karan, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

The introduction of the Apple iPad and its initial successful adoption in the market has triggered the introduction of a whole new class of similar consumer devices. It is evident that the key to the success of such devices is the ability to deliver rich multimedia content efficiently and reliably. However, most tablets fail to meet these expectations in terms of the time it takes to download data and the associated power consumption. More...


Reducing Power with Advanced Clock Tree Synthesis and Optimization
Arvind Narayanan, Mentor Graphics

Clock trees pose a growing challenge to advanced node IC design, particularly with regard to the chip power consumption. Clocks are the single largest source of dynamic power usage, which makes clock tree synthesis (CTS) and optimization as a good place to achieve significant power savings. More...


Reducing EMI in Digital Systems through Spread Spectrum Clock Generators
Travis Linton, Product Marketing Manager, Cypress Semiconductor

Any device capable of generating signals with frequencies in the RF range is a potential source of Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). These signals can cause interference in the normal operation of electronic devices such as radios, televisions, cell phones and other types of equipment. The primary sources of EMI in most systems are the clock generation and distribution circuits. More...


Auto-Zero Operational Amplifiers: Inherent Benefits in Portable Signal-Conditioning Applications
Kevin Tretter, Microchip

At first glance, the term “auto-zero” operational amplifier (op amp) may appear to be something new, but in reality this architectural concept has been around for decades. This article will explore the history behind auto-zero op amps and provide a high-level overview of the architecture. Additionally, the article will explore the inherent benefits of this architecture for signal-conditioning applications. Finally, an example application will be analyzed to further compare the auto-zero architecture to that of traditional op amps. More...


Reducing EMI in Class D Audio Applications by Spread Spectrum Modulation Techniques
Bill McCulley, Staff Applications Engineer, National Semiconductor Corp.

The use of Class D audio amplifiers has become increasingly widespread in portable applications. As complexity, size and audio performance have improved, the Class D topology continues to gain market share. So compelling a benefit is efficiency that Class D amplifiers are now used extensively in portable designs worldwide, as battery life and small profile become key differentiators for end-users. The efficiency advantage is more pronounced when one realizes the typical audio application will normally operate at less than one-third of the total output power specified. More...

Personal Training: 32 Bits at a Time
Aaron GL Podbelski, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

These devices have traditionally been data mining devices which relied on an application running on a personal computer to analyze the data and return the runner’s performance results. Now, by utilizing 32-bit microcontrollers designers are able to efficiently perform the necessary on-board calculations to give athlete’s direct and immediate feedback to motivate and enhance the workout. More...



EDA/Tools & Software

New Challenges for IC Power Grid Analysis
By Christen Decoin, Mentor Graphics

Today, IC designers routinely include both static and dynamic power analysis, but with exploding design sizes and added complexity, power analysis solutions are struggling to keep up with all the new requirements. This article describes the new areas of power verification and the challenges associated with these checks. More...


3 Musts for Reducing RTL Power
By Ghulam Nurie and Abhishek Ranjan

Power management has emerged as a major design challenge in chip design today. The new importance of power consumption is not only coming from the increased proliferation of mobile devices, where extending battery life offers a huge competitive edge, but also from databanks and servers, where the infrastructure for providing power, cooling, and heat dissipation is getting very costly and outright prohibitive. More...


3 Biggest Mistakes in Reducing RTL Power
By Shawn McCloud, Calypto Design Systems

Achieving optimal power efficiency is a primary goal of many chip designs. Yet, three common mistakes in manual RTL power optimization practices undermine this goal: focusing on clock gating percentage, choosing sub-optimal memory architectures, and ignoring “don’t care” conditions. Fortunately there are automated strategies that produce more efficient designs. More...


A Practical Guide to Adopting the Universal Verification Methodology—Part 4
Sharon Rosenberg and Kathleen A. Meade, Cadence Design Systems

As part of the verification task and in order to follow the verification plan, a user may need to extend the generic verification environment behavior beyond its original intent. Unlike design, where specifications can capture the desired functionality in a complete and deterministic form, the verification process is fluid, dynamic and unpredictable. More...


Fundamentals of High Level Synthesis—Part 4
Michael Fingeroff, Mentor Graphics

The initiation interval can be set anywhere from a synthesis tool dependent maximum down to an II=1 on any feed-forward design. However, a design with feedback limits the initiation interval to be no less than the delay of the feedback path. There are three types of feedback, data dependent, control dependent, and inter-block feedback. More...


A Practical Guide to Adopting the Universal Verification Methodology—Part 3
Sharon Rosenberg and Kathleen A. Meade, Cadence Design Systems

Over two decades ago, designers shifted from gate-level to RTL design. This shift was driven by the development of standard Verilog and VHDL RTL coding styles, as well as the availability of RTL synthesis and implementation tools. A major benefit of moving to RTL was that it enabled designers to focus more on the intended cycle level behavior designs and design correctness at this level, and much less on gate-level considerations. More...


Fundamentals of High Level Synthesis—Part 3
Michael Fingeroff, Mentor Graphics

Nested loops and the effects of pipelining nested loops is often one of the most misunderstood concepts of high-level C++ synthesis. Understanding the resulting hardware behavior from synthesizing non-pipelined and pipelined nested loops allows designers to more easily meet performance and area requirements. The simple accumulator that has been used in previous examples can be extended to illustrate the effects of nested loops. More...


A Practical Guide to Adopting the Universal Verification Methodology—Part 2
Sharon Rosenberg and Kathleen A. Meade, Cadence Design Systems

In HDL, such as Verilog and VHDL, static elaboration of the instances hierarchy occurs before simulation starts. This ensures that all instances are in place and connected properly before run-time simulation. In SystemVerilog, classes are instantiated at run time. This raises a few questions: When is it safe to start traffic generation and execution? When is a good time to assume that all the UVC components have been created? and What TLM ports can be connected? More...


Fundamentals of High Level Synthesis—Part 2
Michael Fingeroff, Mentor Graphics

One of the most important features of HLS for tuning design performance is Loop Unrolling. However, it is necessary first to discuss what constitutes a “loop” in C++. Loops are the primary mechanism for applying high level synthesis constraints as well as moving data, or IO, into and out of an algorithm. The style in which loops are written can have a significant impact on the quality of results of the generated hardware. More...


A Practical Guide to Adopting the Universal Verification Methodology—Part 1
Sharon Rosenberg and Kathleen A. Meade, Cadence Design Systems

The UVM is first and foremost a methodology and collection of best practices for functional verification. As mentioned before, the UVM library is a capable and mature enabler of this high-level methodology. While the library classes and engines can be used in arbitrary ways, we highly recommend following the UVM as prescribed in the following chapters, as they suggest a proven recipe for successful verification. More...


Fundamentals of High Level Synthesis—Part 1
Michael Fingeroff, Mentor Graphics

One of the common misconceptions held by people is that synthesizing hardware from C++ provides users the freedom of expressing their algorithms using any style of C++ coding that they desire. When designing using high-level C++ synthesis, it is important to remember that we are still describing hardware using C++, and a “poor” description can lead to a sub-optimal RTL implementation. This chapter attempts to cover the basics of high level synthesis, and to show what designers can expect from a given coding style. More...


Formal Verification for Challenging Low-Power Designs
Saptarshi Biswas, Jasper Design Automation

Designers using advanced energy-efficient techniques increase the complexity of their designs. These techniques are defined at the architectural level and have a strong impact throughout the design process. Complexity induced by multi-power domain chips and advanced low-power techniques make verification a difficult task. For all these techniques, verification is becoming the biggest bottleneck. More...


Verification Methodology for Low Power--Part 4: Multivoltage Verification—Dynamic Verification and Hierarchical Power Management
Srikanth Jadcherla, Synopsys, Inc.; Janick Bergeron, Synopsis, Inc.; Yoshio Inoue, Renasas Technology Corp.; and David Flynn, ARM Limited

Assuming that static verification yields a clean result, we can assume that in a steady multi-voltage state, there are no further obvious electrically hazardous conditions. Corner cases may well exist that need to be uncovered by dynamic verification. However, before we get there we have some basic functionality to verify. More...


Verification Methodology for Low Power--Part 3: Multivoltage Verification—Static Verification
Srikanth Jadcherla, Synopsys, Inc.; Janick Bergeron, Synopsis, Inc.; Yoshio Inoue, Renasas Technology Corp.; and David Flynn, ARM Limited

This chapter takes a detailed look at both static and dynamic verification. We cover static verification first as part of the flow and move onto dynamic verification. The flow at various design stages is also discussed. More...


Verification Methodology for Low Power--Part 2: Multi-Voltage Testbench Architecture: Coding Guidelines & Library Modeling
Srikanth Jadcherla, Synopsys, Inc.; Janick Bergeron, Synopsis, Inc.; Yoshio Inoue, Renasas Technology Corp.; and David Flynn, ARM Limited

As can be expected, the impact of power management can be felt on how code is written as well, both for the DUT and testbench. This section contains coding issues and guidelines for low power designs. These are usually encountered when migrating either existing code or coding rules to low-power designs. They involve both testbench and DUT code. More...


Verification Methodology for Low Power--Part 1: Multi-Voltage Testbench Architecture: Testbench Structure and Components
Srikanth Jadcherla, Synopsys, Inc.; Janick Bergeron, Synopsis, Inc.; Yoshio Inoue, Renasas Technology Corp.; and David Flynn, ARM Limited

In this chapter, the formation or migration to a multi-voltage testbench is discussed. The various testbench components are also identified and discussed. This will cover coding guidelines, power intent and library modeling aspects as well. Overall preparation for the verification process is the focus of this chapter. More...


Verification Management: The Path of Evolution
Rahul V. Shah, Director, ASIC Engineering Division, Sibridge Technologies and Darron May, Product Marketing Manager, Mentor Graphics

It is a universal truth that evolution is a never ending progression. Whether biological or technological, evolution is all about overcoming the hurdles in the path of development. We evolve and cross one hurdle and soon face another, then evolve again. For example, new modes of transportation were invented to resolve the travel-time issue, and now there is too much traffic. Whether it is in the air or freeway, this is one of many hurdles we must cross in transportation. The verification industry is no different. More...


Simplifying Android Migration: Using Mobile Virtualization to Reduce Time, Risk and Cost
Rob McCammon, Open Kernel Labs

The Android mobile device platform from Google and the Open Handset Alliance has ignited the imagination of mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), developers and end users. Since its introduction, Android has enjoyed a rapidly growing market presence and bullish prospects for new deployments. Moreover, Android’s success as an open-source environment gives it additional momentum and rapid acceptance, and drives a fast-growing ecosystem of application developers. However, the underlying standard software components and an active developer community have not necessarily made it easier for OEMs to bring Android-based devices to market. More...


Model-Based Design Accelerates Functional Verification
David Lidrbauch, Product Marketing Manager, The MathWorks

Functional verification consumes from 50% to 65% of the development time and budget for today’s system-on-chip (SoC) projects. With fragmented tools and development methodologies that rely on manual scripting, collections of disparate verification tools, inter-tool incompatibilities with almost-standard transaction languages, and mismatched database sources, functional verification can itself become a project that deflects attention from the main development goals. Instead of optimizing and debugging product designs, engineers spend time debugging their workflow and compensating for gaps in their verification tool chain. More...


Hardware Software Co-design Accelerates Development of Smart Wireless Devices
Matti Kattilakoski, Chairman of the Board, Navicron

Trends in handheld wireless devices can change quickly. Driven by fickle consumer tastes, technologies and applications can drift in or out of fashion as easily as a pair of sunglasses. To capitalize on market demand for “what’s hot”, embedded device designers must apply new technologies rapidly and time-to-market becomes the Holy Grail. More...


Ultra-Low Power Requires MCMM
Arvind Narayanan and Sudhakar Jilla, Mentor Graphics

ICs for smart phones, music players, and other portable products now depend on a palette of relatively exotic design methods, including multiple voltage domains, and dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS), to effectively manage power. These new techniques present a minefield of challenges to the entire design flow. More...


It’s a Mixed-Signal World
Kishore Karnane, Product Marketing Director, Cadence

It’s often said that most of today’s designs are mixed signal, and that mixed-signal verification remains one of the biggest design challenges. A typical chip design today is a complete system with millions of gates that make up large numbers of DSPs, memories and processors, all of which must interface with the real world through displays, antennas, sensors, and cables. This requires unprecedented integration of analog and digital content, without compromising performance or size, and on a technology scale that dramatically increases vulnerability to process and electrical variation. More...


The Design and Verification Challenge for the Next Decade
Linda Fosler, Director of Marketing, Mentor Graphics Deep Submicron Division

“The real world is analog and computers are digital.” These nine words set the stage for the great circuit design challenges of the next decade. To quote G. Dan Hutchenson, president of VLSI Research, “virtual reality is possible only with mixed-signal chips,” and of course, every designer on the planet, from the creators of advanced weaponry to smart phones and cars that nearly drive themselves, is hot on the trail of virtual reality. More...


Open UPF/IEEEp1801 Standard Roadmap Offers Technical and Business Advantages for Next Generation Power-Managed SoC Design
By John Biggs, ARM Ltd; Gary Delp, LSI; Steve Bailey, Mentor Graphics; Kevin Kranen, Synopsys; Rolf Lagerquist, Texas Instruments; Minh Chau, Texas Instruments

The global energy and climate crises that have gained significant awareness over the past six to eight years have “fueled” the emergence of so-called “green” technology initiatives in several key markets, most notably the information technology sector. Semiconductor component power consumption represents problematic challenges that include: mega-server farms consuming hundreds of megawatts, handheld consumer devices, and physical device scaling below 45nm semiconductor process nodes. The result has been a newfound awareness that “off-by-default” may become the mantra for next-generation semiconductor design practice. More...



Lighting

Hands On: Evaluation Kit Eases Lighting Design Starts
John Donovan, Low-Power Design

Normally you order an evaluation kit to check out whether a particular microcontroller seems appropriate for a design you have in mind; if everything seems OK, you then order a more costly development kit to prototype your design. Cypress’ CY3267 PowerPSoC Lighting Evaluation Kit manages to cross that line. More...


Backlight LED Driver System in Small Format Liquid Crystal Displays
By Dario Nurzad, Product Marketing Engineer, Mobile Power Devices, National Semiconductor

This paper describes the different building-blocks needed to power LED backlights in small format LCDs. A switched capacitor voltage regulator is desirable for applications requiring low cost and small solution size. The constant current regulator approach adds to these features excellent current matching and brightness control. Last but not least the inductive boost solution yields the lowest power consumption over the entire supply voltage range. More...


Integrated MPPT Charge Controller and LED Driver
Anshul Gulati and Srinivas NVNS, Cypress Semiconductor

Traditional charge controllers seldom take into consideration the loading on a solar panel and thus don't derive the complete available energy from the panel. This is where maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controllers come into the picture. More...


Advanced Dynamic Voltage Scaling via VSEL, One-Pin EasyScale or I2C Interface
By Alexander Friebe, Worldwide Product Marketing Engineer, Texas Instruments

In today’s applications dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) means either optimizing battery lifetime in portable applications, or saving energy and reducing heat in complex, multiprocessor environments. Interface and DVS functionality gives the system designer a new and highly advanced tool to achieve the best results in today’s complex applications. More...



Memory Systems

MRAM—The Future of Non-Volatile Memory?
David Bondurant, Brad Engel, and Jon Slaughter, EverSpin Technologies, Inc.

Today’s portable electronics have become computationally intensive devices as the user interface has migrated to a fully multimedia experience. To provide the performance required for these applications, the portable electronics designer uses multiple types of memories: a medium-speed random access memory for continuously changing data, a high-speed memory for caching instructions to the CPU, and a slower, nonvolatile memory for long-term information storage when the power is removed. Combining all of these memory types into a single memory has been a long-standing goal of the semiconductor industry. More...

Non-Volatile Memory Options in Portable Designs
Craig Zajac, Product Marketing Manager, Embedded NVM Group, Virage Logic Corporation

The number of functions being demanded by consumers in portable devices is growing every day. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to have separate devices providing voice access, email and web access, music, video, and gaming. As the number of features and functions embedded into portable devices increases, so does the need for embedded non-volatile memory (NVM). More...



Mobile

Hardware is Key for Future Mobile Phones
By Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx

The saying, "hardware is the new software" refers, at least in part, to companies such as Google and Microsoft piling into mobile phone hardware. In this article we share some of the findings in the new IDTechEx report analysing these developments, Future Mobile Phone/Cell Phone Technology and Functions 2014-2024. More...



Multicore

Good Embedded Communications is the Key to Multicore Hardware Design Success
By David Lautzenheiser, Vice President of Marketing, Silistix

While multicore processors have certainly become an important part of many SoC designs, there are still several obstacles designers face in dealing with more than one processing engine on a chip. It’s time to look at self-timed network on chip (NoC) interconnect fabrics for embedded communication networks. More...


Multicore for Portables
John Donovan – Editor-in-Chief

This is the Age of Multicore. After 40 years of surfing Moore’s Law to greater and greater levels of performance, a few years ago the semiconductor industry finally started to hit some brick walls thrown up by simple physics. When at 32 nm static power becomes a more difficult problem than dynamic power, it’s time to consider your options. More...


Solve Portable Design Problems Using Convenient Concurrency
By Grant Martin and Steve Leibson, Tensilica, Inc.

Discussions of multicore chips, multiprocessors, and associated programming models for portable system design continue to be narrowly bounded by a focus on individual, general-purpose processor architectures, DSPs, and RTL blocks, which severely limits the possible ways in which you might use multiple computing resources to attack problems. Big semiconductor and server vendors offer symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) multicore processors, with each core supporting multiple threads. Such multicore chips are found in large servers and laptops. However, these power-hungry, general-purpose multiprocessor arrays do not serve well as processing models for many portable systems. More...



Power Management

Power Analysis Throughout the Physical Design Flow
By Christen Decoin, Mentor Graphics

In most cases today, IC power analysis efforts are mainly focused at signoff. Even though some place and route (P&R) solutions provide simple checks at the floor planning stage, there are a lot of opportunities to improve power analysis capabilities during design, and to align and integrate these with the signoff tools and the overall design flow. More...


New Challenges for IC Power Grid Analysis
By Christen Decoin, Mentor Graphics

Today, IC designers routinely include both static and dynamic power analysis, but with exploding design sizes and added complexity, power analysis solutions are struggling to keep up with all the new requirements. This article describes the new areas of power verification and the challenges associated with these checks. More...


3 Musts for Reducing RTL Power
By Ghulam Nurie and Abhishek Ranjan

Power management has emerged as a major design challenge in chip design today. The new importance of power consumption is not only coming from the increased proliferation of mobile devices, where extending battery life offers a huge competitive edge, but also from databanks and servers, where the infrastructure for providing power, cooling, and heat dissipation is getting very costly and outright prohibitive. More...


Wireless Power Charging with Spatial Freedom
By Manjit Singh and Stefan Maireanu, Integrated Device Technology

In recent years, wireless power charging of mobile devices using inductive coupling between two coils has become prevalent. Initially, inductively charged toothbrushes came to the market. Later, a variety of proprietary after-market sleeves and battery backdoors became available to enable mobile devices with wireless charging capability. More...


3D Packaging Developments for Advanced Power Management Needs
By Matt Romig, packaging technology productization manager in TI’s Analog business

How do you choose the right power management components in high current systems such as computing or telecom? Let’s say up to 30V, and anywhere from 25 to 200A. There are so many tradeoffs involved. Efficiency curves are a great place to start, to handle more current and minimize power loss. Smaller form factors are also important for most systems these days, as there is less space available overall and allocated for your power supply. More...


Squeezing the Most From Battery Cells with a Switched-Mode Pump
By Udayan Umapathi, Cypress Semiconductor

Having an on-chip Switched Mode Pump in microcontrollers and SoCs is helpful in powering low power embedded applications. Improving its efficiency helps improve the endurance of the battery. It also results in lesser number of batteries disposed, encourages designers to develop solar cell powered systems, and contributes towards a greener planet. More...


Optimizing Low Power Embedded Designs
By Sachin Gupta and Madhan Kumar, Cypress Semiconductor

The need for low power embedded designs has always been high motivated by the desire to run applications for as long as possible while consuming the minimum power. In a battery powered system, this need is magnified. Furthermore, in battery powered systems low power implies lower cost of operation and smaller battery size to make applications more mobile. When energy comes at a premium as it does with today’s green initiatives, ensuring that an embedded design consumes as little energy as possible assumes significant importance in wall-powered applications as well. More...


Taming the Synchronous Buck-Switching Waveform
By Josh Mandelcorn, Member Group Technical Staff, Power Management, Texas Instruments

The synchronous buck converter achieves high efficiency by replacing the Schottky clamp diode with a low-side MOSFET. This MOSFET has a very low drop across the switch. However, because its internal diode is not a Schottky, when it turns off and the high-side MOSFET is turned on, a large ringing in the waveform occurs. More...


Power Saving Measures for Programmable Logic Designers
By Troy Scott, Lattice Semiconductor Corporation

This article examines design methods and practical advice for saving power. Since modern programmable logic devices (PLDs) have very low dynamic current requirements, often in the microampere range, they are ideal as system event monitors to control overall system wake/sleep states. More...


Reducing Power with Advanced Clock Tree Synthesis and Optimization
Arvind Narayanan, Mentor Graphics

Clock trees pose a growing challenge to advanced node IC design, particularly with regard to the chip power consumption. Clocks are the single largest source of dynamic power usage, which makes clock tree synthesis (CTS) and optimization as a good place to achieve significant power savings. More...


Five Tips for Reducing Light Load Power Consumption
Brian King, Applications Engineer, Texas Instruments

It can be quite a challenge to meet today’s mandated efficiency requirements for power supplies. Just understanding the requirements is difficult enough, thanks to the dizzying array of initiatives and directives that vary by end equipment, power level, and governing authority. These include Energy Star, the California Energy Commission, and the EU Stand-by Initiative, to name a few. However, after a quick glance at any of these the energy conservation initiatives, it becomes clear that one of the greatest challenges for the power supply designer is to minimize the power loss at light loads and no load. Here are five ways to remove those last few milliwatts from an offline flyback supply. More...

Designing Low-Cost Single/Multi-Cell Li-ION Battery Chargers
Meng He, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

Li-ION rechargeable batteries, with a projected yearly market growth rate of approximately 20%, are widely used in smart phones, portable media players, and digital still cameras. This battery type is widely adopted because of its high energy density on both gravimetric and volumetric basis, low self discharge rate, and low maintenance. Li-Ion batteries are also lighter in weight than NiCad and NiMH batteries. More...

Voltage Supervisors Pull Multiple Duties
By Scot Lester, Texas Instruments

The market drives digital signal processor (DSP), microcontroller and field programmable gate array (FPGA) manufacturers to continually increase clock frequencies for higher performance while, at the same time, also demanding lower power consumption. These two opposing criteria led to the development of multiple power rail devices. More...


Backlight LED Driver System in Small Format Liquid Crystal Displays
By Dario Nurzad, Product Marketing Engineer, Mobile Power Devices, National Semiconductor

This paper describes the different building-blocks needed to power LED backlights in small format LCDs. A switched capacitor voltage regulator is desirable for applications requiring low cost and small solution size. The constant current regulator approach adds to these features excellent current matching and brightness control. Last but not least the inductive boost solution yields the lowest power consumption over the entire supply voltage range. More...


Optimize Power Consumption in Portable Electronics Using Integrated Load Switches
By Philippe Pichot, Texas Instruments

The adoption rate of load switches continues to increase across a broad range of end equipment including portable electronics (mobile phones, portable consumer electronics, notebooks or any portable equipment). Load switches are increasingly used in power management architectures to distribute power from a single regulated source or to switch off any unused peripherals (camera module, WLAN module, SD Card slot, LCD display, etc.) with the goal of limiting current leakages and optimizing the power consumption in a system. More...


Lower Supply Voltages Enable Low-Power Portable Electronic Devices
By Aditya Rao, Product Marketing Engineer, Memory Products Division, Microchip Technology Inc.

The tremendous growth in the semiconductor industry over the last two decades has largely been a result of the scaling of CMOS devices which, over the years, has yielded lower costs with more die per wafer, smaller feature sizes and increased performance. However, device scaling has reached a point of threshold today, wherein its benefits are realized only if a device’s power consumption can be reduced by a few orders of magnitude. More...


Processor Energy Savings Through Adaptive Voltage Scaling
By Mark Hartman, Applications Engineering Manager, National Semiconductor’s Advanced Power Group

Frequency and voltage scaling are common place in portable electronic processors. These devices are providing more and more functionality and demand the highest data processing efficiency. Adaptive Voltage Scaling (AVS) provides the lowest operation voltage for a given processing frequency by utilizing a closed loop approach. The AVS loop regulates processor performance by automatically adjusting the output voltage of the power supply to compensate for process and temperature variation in the processor. In addition, the AVS loop trims out power supply tolerance. When compared to open loop voltage scaling solutions like Dynamic Voltage Scaling (DVS), AVS uses up to 45% less energy. More...


Advanced Dynamic Voltage Scaling via VSEL, One-Pin EasyScale or I2C Interface
By Alexander Friebe, Worldwide Product Marketing Engineer, Texas Instruments

In today’s applications dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) means either optimizing battery lifetime in portable applications, or saving energy and reducing heat in complex, multiprocessor environments. Interface and DVS functionality gives the system designer a new and highly advanced tool to achieve the best results in today’s complex applications. More...


Architectural Issues for Power Gating
By Michael Keating (Synopsys, Synopsys Fellow), David Flynn (ARM, ARM Fellow), Robert Aitken (ARM, ARM Fellow), Alan Gibbons (Synopsys, Principal Engineer), and Kaijian Shi (Synopsys, Principal Consultant)

A scalable approach to chip architecture is valuable since a system-on-chip design today often becomes a component in an even larger chip in a subsequent product generation. This article discusses some of the architectural issues involved in implementing power-gating designs. In particular, it addresses the issues of partitioning, hierarchy and multiple power-gated domains. More...


The Role of Digital Power in Portable Applications
By Dave Freeman, Engineering Manager, System Power Products, Texas Instruments

Power management is vital to extending runtime for portable applications. Power conversion in these applications has been dominated by analog circuits, while the power management has been performed by embedded processors and simple sequencers. These analog solutions have served the system well. With recent trends in power solutions focusing on digital control, new opportunities emerge for portable power solutions. More...


Smart Battery Management Considerations for Portable Applications
By Ravi Pragasam, Senior Manager, Fusion Product Marketing, Actel Corporation

Portable applications need the support of battery management systems to ensure that the productivity of batteries is maintained and to deliver the best power profile over the batteries’ lifetime. In most applications today, batteries need to be replaced often and a system that can offer a means to have efficiently managed so as to prolong its life can offer several benefits. In addition to a lower overall cost since the consumer will not have to continually purchase new batteries, prolonging battery life means fewer battery replacements, which in turn means less waste. More...


Reducing Power in Video-Intensive Portable Applications
By Mitch Dale, Director of Product Marketing, Calypto Design Systems

Despite the consumer’s seemingly insatiable desire for video-rich applications, minimizing power consumption and maximizing battery life remain absolute requirements for portable mobile devices. Navigating these conflicting objectives requires a holistic, comprehensive approach to saving power. Portable designers must deploy power saving-techniques throughout the design flow to achieve both standby and active power requirements.  More...



Power Sources

Advanced Galvanic Isolation Technology Brings Efficiency and Reliability to Consumer Motor Control
By Don Alfano, Director of Power Products, Silicon Labs

CMOS-based isolation technology has given rise to isolated gate drivers, multi-channel digital isolators and AC current sensors that offer significant gains in performance and reliability compared to legacy galvanic isolation techniques. More...


The Death of Lead Acid Batteries
Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman, IDTechEx

In historical terms, the death of the flint tool, cooking by dung and other bygone technologies occurred very rapidly. This was because several factors conspired to bring in the better alternative and this created a multiplier effect. So it is with lead acid batteries. More...

Universally Compatible Wireless Power Using the Qi Protocol
Upal Sengupta and Bill Johns, Texas Instruments

Wireless power systems are emerging as a practical option for conveniently recharging mobile phones and other handheld devices. Implementing an industry standard interface allows a common charging pad (TX) to recharge multiple types of battery-operated devices (RX). More...

Designing Low-Cost Single/Multi-Cell Li-ION Battery Chargers
Meng He, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

Li-ION rechargeable batteries, with a projected yearly market growth rate of approximately 20%, are widely used in smart phones, portable media players, and digital still cameras. This battery type is widely adopted because of its high energy density on both gravimetric and volumetric basis, low self discharge rate, and low maintenance. Li-Ion batteries are also lighter in weight than NiCad and NiMH batteries. More...

Five Tips for Reducing Light Load Power Consumption
Brian King, Applications Engineer, Texas Instruments

It can be quite a challenge to meet today’s mandated efficiency requirements for power supplies. Just understanding the requirements is difficult enough, thanks to the dizzying array of initiatives and directives that vary by end equipment, power level, and governing authority. These include Energy Star, the California Energy Commission, and the EU Stand-by Initiative, to name a few. However, after a quick glance at any of these the energy conservation initiatives, it becomes clear that one of the greatest challenges for the power supply designer is to minimize the power loss at light loads and no load. Here are five ways to remove those last few milliwatts from an offline flyback supply. More...

Energy Harvesting Widens Opportunities for Microbatteries
Linnea Brush, Senior Research Analyst, Darnell, Inc.

Currently, most energy harvesting technologies are using battery back-up and are likely to for several years to come. Companies are trying to find appropriate energy storage alternatives to traditional batteries, however. Batteries are problematic for large-scale wireless applications. Today’s cost premium is typically below what it costs to swap the battery one at a time, including battery cost, labor and so on. Over an expected lifetime of 15 years, a self-powered sensor could provide “significant” cost savings. More...



Power Standards

Supporting Next-Generation Ethernet in the Green Data Center
By Brian Jaroszewski, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Vitesse

As enterprise data centers expand to support cloud-based services, network managers are faced with an uncomfortable paradox: Exponential growth of users demanding high-bandwidth service is driving architectures that offer unprecedented density of 100-Mbit and 1-Gbit ports in a single line card, even as power costs and green initiatives place new demands for energy efficiency in the data center. More...

Universally Compatible Wireless Power Using the Qi Protocol
Upal Sengupta and Bill Johns, Texas Instruments

Wireless power systems are emerging as a practical option for conveniently recharging mobile phones and other handheld devices. Implementing an industry standard interface allows a common charging pad (TX) to recharge multiple types of battery-operated devices (RX). More...

Open UPF/IEEEp1801 Standard Roadmap Offers Technical and Business Advantages for Next Generation Power-Managed SoC Design
By John Biggs, ARM Ltd; Gary Delp, LSI; Steve Bailey, Mentor Graphics; Kevin Kranen, Synopsys; Rolf Lagerquist, Texas Instruments; Minh Chau, Texas Instruments

The global energy and climate crises that have gained significant awareness over the past six to eight years have “fueled” the emergence of so-called “green” technology initiatives in several key markets, most notably the information technology sector. Semiconductor component power consumption represents problematic challenges that include: mega-server farms consuming hundreds of megawatts, handheld consumer devices, and physical device scaling below 45nm semiconductor process nodes. The result has been a newfound awareness that “off-by-default” may become the mantra for next-generation semiconductor design practice. More...



Processor Architectures

Simplifying Android Migration: Using Mobile Virtualization to Reduce Time, Risk and Cost
Rob McCammon, Open Kernel Labs

The Android mobile device platform from Google and the Open Handset Alliance has ignited the imagination of mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), developers and end users. Since its introduction, Android has enjoyed a rapidly growing market presence and bullish prospects for new deployments. Moreover, Android’s success as an open-source environment gives it additional momentum and rapid acceptance, and drives a fast-growing ecosystem of application developers. However, the underlying standard software components and an active developer community have not necessarily made it easier for OEMs to bring Android-based devices to market. More...


Processor Energy Savings Through Adaptive Voltage Scaling
By Mark Hartman, Applications Engineering Manager, National Semiconductor’s Advanced Power Group

Frequency and voltage scaling are common place in portable electronic processors. These devices are providing more and more functionality and demand the highest data processing efficiency. Adaptive Voltage Scaling (AVS) provides the lowest operation voltage for a given processing frequency by utilizing a closed loop approach. The AVS loop regulates processor performance by automatically adjusting the output voltage of the power supply to compensate for process and temperature variation in the processor. In addition, the AVS loop trims out power supply tolerance. When compared to open loop voltage scaling solutions like Dynamic Voltage Scaling (DVS), AVS uses up to 45% less energy. More...


Choosing the Right Central Logic Device for Your Portable Design
By Amit Kapadiya, Marketing Manager, Nuvation

Most portable applications have a central logic device: field array programmable gate array (FPGA), digital signal processor (DSP) or microprocessor. Deciding the right device for your design is pivotal to the application capabilities and involves some important questions. More...


Architectural Issues for Power Gating
By Michael Keating (Synopsys, Synopsys Fellow), David Flynn (ARM, ARM Fellow), Robert Aitken (ARM, ARM Fellow), Alan Gibbons (Synopsys, Principal Engineer), and Kaijian Shi (Synopsys, Principal Consultant)

A scalable approach to chip architecture is valuable since a system-on-chip design today often becomes a component in an even larger chip in a subsequent product generation. This article discusses some of the architectural issues involved in implementing power-gating designs. In particular, it addresses the issues of partitioning, hierarchy and multiple power-gated domains. More...


Good Embedded Communications is the Key to Multicore Hardware Design Success
By David Lautzenheiser, Vice President of Marketing, Silistix

While multicore processors have certainly become an important part of many SoC designs, there are still several obstacles designers face in dealing with more than one processing engine on a chip. It’s time to look at self-timed network on chip (NoC) interconnect fabrics for embedded communication networks. More...


The Benefits of Single-Cell MCU Operation
Steve Diaper – Field Applications Engineer, Silicon Labs

Until recently, even the lowest voltage, lowest power MCUs on the market required a minimum supply of 1.8 Volts to operate – requiring at least two alkaline batteries in series for battery operation. However, a new MCU family now offers a minimum operating voltage of just 0.9 Volts – the end of life voltage of a single alkaline battery. More...


Solve Portable Design Problems Using Convenient Concurrency
By Grant Martin and Steve Leibson, Tensilica, Inc.

Discussions of multicore chips, multiprocessors, and associated programming models for portable system design continue to be narrowly bounded by a focus on individual, general-purpose processor architectures, DSPs, and RTL blocks, which severely limits the possible ways in which you might use multiple computing resources to attack problems. Big semiconductor and server vendors offer symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) multicore processors, with each core supporting multiple threads. Such multicore chips are found in large servers and laptops. However, these power-hungry, general-purpose multiprocessor arrays do not serve well as processing models for many portable systems. More...



Programmable Logic

Power Saving Measures for Programmable Logic Designers
By Troy Scott, Lattice Semiconductor Corporation

This article examines design methods and practical advice for saving power. Since modern programmable logic devices (PLDs) have very low dynamic current requirements, often in the microampere range, they are ideal as system event monitors to control overall system wake/sleep states. More...


Choosing the Right Central Logic Device for Your Portable Design
By Amit Kapadiya, Marketing Manager, Nuvation

Most portable applications have a central logic device: field array programmable gate array (FPGA), digital signal processor (DSP) or microprocessor. Deciding the right device for your design is pivotal to the application capabilities and involves some important questions. More...


Optimizing Video Encoders with Digital Signal Processors
Ajit Rao, Texas Instruments

Video compression allows for digital video encoding, using as few bits as possible while maintaining acceptable visual quality. However, video compression involves sacrificing some degree of picture quality for a lower bit rate that facilitates transmission and storage. In addition, compression requires a high level of performance from the processor as well as versatility in design, since different types of video applications have different sets of requirements for resolution, bandwidth and resiliency. The extended flexibility provided by digital signal processors (DSP) address these differences and take full advantage of the options offered by advanced video compression standards to help system developers optimize their products. More...


DSPs Vs. FPGAs: Is there a superior choice for portable design?
By David Coode, Audio DSP Team Manager, ON Semiconductor

In the 1980s both Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and Digital Signal Processor (DSP) technologies evolved to provide more value to digital electronics designers over conventional ASIC approaches available at that time. These technologies were developed with different focuses: FPGAs to collect discrete logic into a single re-programmable product, and DSPs to provide more efficient signal processing solutions. Today, FPGAs have matured to the point where they can be effectively applied to signal processing tasks, a domain that has recently belonged only to DSPs. What are today’s designers of portable electronics to make of the convergence of these technologies in the signal processing space? What is the better solution? More...


Configurable Processors—Boon or Bane?
John Donovan, Editor-in-Chief

When it comes to portable designs, it’s hard to say which is moving faster, the market or the technology. Each year we see scores of new cell phone models introduced, most of which will disappear within six months—and all of which are the end product of a design process that started 12-18 months earlier. During that time audio, video and RF standards have continued to evolve and consumer tastes have remained on spin cycle. The chances that all of your original design decisions will turn out to be on the mark a year or two later are vanishingly small. More...



RF/Wireless

Designing Wireless Devices Powered by Microharvesters
By Carlo Canziani, Agilent Technologies, Inc.

Wireless sensors and remote controllers can operate without batteries if you use energy harvesting devices to harvest energy from the environment. However, if you use a microharvester, you must make tradeoffs between finding available energy and device energy consumption. This task is less difficult if you have a way to make power-related measurements that can accurately show the dynamic nature of low-power devices. This article explores what it takes to design low-power devices to use with microharvesters. More...

Selecting Antennas for Embedded Designs
By John Donovan, Low-Power Design

This article will examine basic antenna design parameters and recommend which types of antennas make the most sense for the most popular embedded wireless applications. It will also address some design considerations that can have a major effect on how your antenna works in practice. You don’t need to know how to design antennas in order to know how to design with them. More...


Wireless Power Charging with Spatial Freedom
By Manjit Singh and Stefan Maireanu, Integrated Device Technology

In recent years, wireless power charging of mobile devices using inductive coupling between two coils has become prevalent. Initially, inductively charged toothbrushes came to the market. Later, a variety of proprietary after-market sleeves and battery backdoors became available to enable mobile devices with wireless charging capability. More...


Extending battery life in ultra low power wireless applications
By Jay Tyzzer, Senior Field Application Engineer- Americas, Nordic

Ultra low power (ULP) wireless is on the up. Proprietary 2.4GHz technologies have steadily carved a growing niche in applications as diverse as wireless desktops, remote controls and fitness monitoring sensors such as heart rate belts. But it is the introduction of interoperable technologies – allowing OEMs a choice of chips from a multi-vendor environment that are guaranteed to work together – that’s really going to push this technology into the mainstream. More...


Introducing LTE-Advanced (Part 1)
Contributed by Agilent Technologies, Inc.

LTE-Advanced is being specified initially as part of Release 10 of the 3GPP specifications, with a functional freeze targeted for March 2011. The LTE specifications will continue to be developed in subsequent 3GPP releases. More...


Introducing LTE-Advanced (Part 2)
Contributed by Agilent Technologies, Inc.

The third generation of cellular radio technology was defined by the ITU-R through the International Mobile Telecommunications 2000 project (IMT-2000). The requirements for IMT-2000, defined in 1997, were expressed only in terms of peak user data rates: More...


Introducing LTE-Advanced (Part 3)
Proposed solutions for achieving LTE-Advanced performance targets for the radio interface are defined in 3GPP TR 36.814, “Further Advancements for E-UTRA Physical Layer Aspects.” [12] A comprehensive summary of the overall LTE-Advanced proposals including radio, network, and system performance can be found in the 3GPP submissions to the first IMT-Advanced evaluation workshop. Contributed by Agilent Technologies, Inc.

More...


Introducing LTE-Advanced (Part 4)
Contributed by Agilent Technologies, Inc.

As an evolution of LTE, LTE-Advanced and Release 10 will pose many challenges to engineers. The LTE standard is new and quite complex, with multiple channel bandwidths, different transmission schemes for the downlink and uplink, both frequency and time domain duplexing (FDD and TDD) transmission modes, and use of MIMO antenna techniques. More...


Putting Intelligence in ‘Bricks’
Fred Frantz, Director, Law Enforcement Programs, Advanced Research Division, Global Security & Engineering Solutions, a division of L-3 Services Incorporated

While software defined radios have added significant flexibility to public safety portable radios, the next step in the progression of capabilities is to add cognitive capabilities to public safety portables. A radio is considered cognitive if it is aware of its environment and internal state and can make decisions about its radio operating behavior based on that information and predefined objectives. More...


CMOS Power Amplifier Technology – The Next Step Toward the Single-Chip Cell Phone
Donald McClymont, VP of Marketing, Axiom Microdevices, Inc.

The market for mobile phones has created a landscape for technological innovation that goes beyond any other consumer product in recent history. The seemingly unstoppable demand for mobile phones has created economies of scale that have driven down the cost of handsets and enabled semiconductor manufacturers to justify the investments necessary to achieve the cost points demanded. More...


How to Make Mobile WiMax Consumer Devices a Reality
Frank Ferro, Director of Business Development, Sonics, Inc.

With the completion of the IEEE 802.16e specification, mobile broadband service is now beginning around the world bringing fixed broadband services to homes and businesses. There are now over 75 commercial networks in operation worldwide supporting 1.3M subscribers. The bulk of these subscribers are using fixed WiMax service. To continue subscriber growth, network service providers have realized giving consumers the ability to “take the internet wherever you go” has huge potential. To do this effectively, mobile devices are needed that will mimic the internet experience at home regardless of location. More...


Simplifying Android Migration: Using Mobile Virtualization to Reduce Time, Risk and Cost
Rob McCammon, Open Kernel Labs

The Android mobile device platform from Google and the Open Handset Alliance has ignited the imagination of mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), developers and end users. Since its introduction, Android has enjoyed a rapidly growing market presence and bullish prospects for new deployments. Moreover, Android’s success as an open-source environment gives it additional momentum and rapid acceptance, and drives a fast-growing ecosystem of application developers. However, the underlying standard software components and an active developer community have not necessarily made it easier for OEMs to bring Android-based devices to market. More...


Developing Highly Integrated Solutions to Meet the Changing Demand of Multi-Mode Devices
Duncan Pilgrim, Director of Product Marketing, Sequoia Communications

With an increasing number of travelers, both nationally and internationally, the world continues to become a smaller place and the desire for a single universal communication device grows. As the demand grows, so do the requirements – voice is still king, but the use of packet-based services, such as Web browsing, e-mail, file downloads and multi-media applications, is on the rise. These packet-based services require increased data rates which go beyond the capabilities of 2G technologies (GSM and CDMA) and require 3G and 4G standards. However, in order to maintain acceptable voice coverage, the devices must be backward compatible with established 2G networks. These multi-mode devices introduce a new set of challenges to the industry that will continue to increase as consumers demand more functionality. More...


Hardware Software Co-design Accelerates Development of Smart Wireless Devices
Matti Kattilakoski, Chairman of the Board, Navicron

Trends in handheld wireless devices can change quickly. Driven by fickle consumer tastes, technologies and applications can drift in or out of fashion as easily as a pair of sunglasses. To capitalize on market demand for “what’s hot”, embedded device designers must apply new technologies rapidly and time-to-market becomes the Holy Grail. More...


Characterizing and Troubleshooting Digital RF Amplifier Systems
By Darren McCarthy, RF Technical Marketing Manager, Tektronix, Inc.

With the emergence of high-speed data services on the wireless mobile networks, new challenges have been placed on the design and operation of power amplifiers. The bursted nature of new wireless access technologies (3GPP - HSPA, LTE, WiMax, and 3GPP2 - 1xEV-DO) can wreak havoc on the modern amplifier design that previously had been designed for voice-only communication. More...


Next-Generation Design Issues in Communications
By Bruce Fette PhD, Chief Scientist, General Dynamics C4 Systems; Mieczyslaw M. Kokar, PhD, Northeastern University; Mark Cummings PhD, Managing Partner enVia

Next-generation communication systems are presented with many design challenges. We are moving into an age where the rules for spectrum access may change faster than new equipment can be fielded and faster than new software for the equipment can be developed. At the same time, heterogeneity is increasing. The rate of development of new technologies and new air interface standards (AISs) is continuing to grow. Research is now exploring many new modes for finding spectrum, for negotiating for use of spectrum, for adapting the modulation to fit into available spaces, and for protocols by which radios can exchange their capabilities in this new field of Cognitive Radio and Dynamic Spectrum. More...


Near Field Communications
By Steve Rackley

Near field communication (NFC) is an ultra short range wireless communication technology that uses magnetic field induction to enable connectivity between devices when they are in physical contact or within a range of a few centimeters. NFC has emerged as a technology for interconnecting consumer electronic devices from the convergence of contactless identification (e.g. RFID) and networking technologies, and aims at simple peer-to-peer networking through automatic connection and configuration. This article explains how it works. More...


Voice-over-Wi-Fi Implementation with Single Stream 802.11n
By Narasimhan Venkatesh, Chief Wireless Architect; Peddi Indukuri, Product Manager; and Subba Reddy, Engineering Manager, Redpine Signals

The growth of wireless networks based on the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN family of standards has been one of the most outstanding success stories of the technology industry in recent years. Apart from the standards themselves, the universal pervasion of WLANs has been assisted and accelerated by the availability of interoperability testing and certification by the Wi-Fi Alliance – so much so that the term “Wi-Fi” is widely used interchangeably with “WLAN.” In this article we provide a background to VoWiFi performance by examining the factors that enable it to provide a satisfying user experience. We elaborate on some of these requirements and describe how they are implemented in VoWiFi devices. More...


Maximize Range in Mobile Handsets with CMOS-on-Sapphire RF Switches
By Dylan J. Kelly, Peregrine Semiconductor Corporation

Mobile handsets need to include many high-selectivity filters in order to accommodate the growing number of frequency bands that must be handled by today's portable multimedia devices. Each handset generation has supported more frequencies, so the number of filters has grown, forcing designers to add switching elements in order to optimize the link budget. More...


Not Just A Mathematical Symbol: A Deeper Look At The "+" Of HSPA+
By Ziad Asghar, Operator and Strategy Manager, Chief Technology Office, Wireless Business Unit, Texas Instruments

We’re entering a new realm of mobile possibilities, driven by advanced semiconductor solutions and innovations across the market. The mobile user experience is reaching exciting heights today, and capabilities will only increase as features and data transfer rates advance. Users are no longer tethered to their desks--the handset brings consumer electronics functionality and data management to the palm of their hands, and inspires connections without boundaries. More...


RF Power Measurement Techniques for Portable Systems
By Vladimir Dvorkin, Applications Engineering Manager; Andy Mo, Applications Engineer; James Wong, Product Marketing Manager, Linear Technology Corporation

With everything today going wireless, RF power measurement is rapidly becoming a necessity. This article highlights many useful techniques for measuring RF signal levels accurately in order to optimize the performance of these wireless systems. The article discusses the optimal approach for varying application requirements. More...


Intelligent Integration of the CDMA RF Front End
Allen Chien, Saul Espino, and Won Kyu Kim, Wireless Semiconductor Division, Avago Technologies

Today’s mobile devices are quite complex, with many RF radios packed into an ever shrinking footprint. How to pack more radio components into less space? Shrinking the individual radio components is the obvious one, while integration of the individual parts is the other. More...


The Future of Ultra Wideband—The Shakeout Begins
By Eric Broockman, CEO, Alereon

Recently WiQuest—a leader in first-generation Ultra Wideband (UWB) silicon—closed its doors. One question that will surely be asked is, “What does this mean for the future of UWB?” More...


Spectrum Management
Bruce Fette, Chief Scientist, Communication Networks Division, General Dynamics C4 Systems

The immediate interest to regulators in fielding cognitive radios is to provide new capabilities that support new methods and mechanisms for spectrum access and utilization now under consideration by international spectrum regulatory bodies. These new methodologies recognize that fixed assignment of a frequency to one purpose across huge geographic regions (often across entire countries) is quite inefficient. More...



System-Level Design

New System Partitioning
Luca Cacioli, Texas Instruments

Cell phones, portable navigation devices and portable media players are built around one main host processor that acts as the brain of the device and runs all the software needed to make the product work, such as audio and video streaming or Internet connections. Implementing a novel system partitioning, in such a way that not everything is controlled by these processors, can help reduce the development time. More...

Personal Training: 32 Bits at a Time
Aaron GL Podbelski, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

These devices have traditionally been data mining devices which relied on an application running on a personal computer to analyze the data and return the runner’s performance results. Now, by utilizing 32-bit microcontrollers designers are able to efficiently perform the necessary on-board calculations to give athlete’s direct and immediate feedback to motivate and enhance the workout. More...


Voltage Supervisors Pull Multiple Duties
By Scot Lester, Texas Instruments

The market drives digital signal processor (DSP), microcontroller and field programmable gate array (FPGA) manufacturers to continually increase clock frequencies for higher performance while, at the same time, also demanding lower power consumption. These two opposing criteria led to the development of multiple power rail devices. More...


CMOS Power Amplifier Technology – The Next Step Toward the Single-Chip Cell Phone
Donald McClymont, VP of Marketing, Axiom Microdevices, Inc.

The market for mobile phones has created a landscape for technological innovation that goes beyond any other consumer product in recent history. The seemingly unstoppable demand for mobile phones has created economies of scale that have driven down the cost of handsets and enabled semiconductor manufacturers to justify the investments necessary to achieve the cost points demanded. More...


Lower Supply Voltages Enable Low-Power Portable Electronic Devices
By Aditya Rao, Product Marketing Engineer, Memory Products Division, Microchip Technology Inc.

The tremendous growth in the semiconductor industry over the last two decades has largely been a result of the scaling of CMOS devices which, over the years, has yielded lower costs with more die per wafer, smaller feature sizes and increased performance. However, device scaling has reached a point of threshold today, wherein its benefits are realized only if a device’s power consumption can be reduced by a few orders of magnitude. More...


High-Speed Video Bus Battle in Portable Designs
Falk Alicke, Senior System Engineer, Texas Instruments

During the 80s, I vividly remember my friend sketching his first computer graphic image of a Marlboro cigarette box on a Commodore 64 screen. Using his DOS operating system, he programmed a software routine that would output the color value and address of every pixel and pixel fields onto the CRT screen. It took hours to finish the red, black and white image. More...


Hardware Software Co-design Accelerates Development of Smart Wireless Devices
Matti Kattilakoski, Chairman of the Board, Navicron

Trends in handheld wireless devices can change quickly. Driven by fickle consumer tastes, technologies and applications can drift in or out of fashion as easily as a pair of sunglasses. To capitalize on market demand for “what’s hot”, embedded device designers must apply new technologies rapidly and time-to-market becomes the Holy Grail. More...


Next-Generation Design Issues in Communications
By Bruce Fette PhD, Chief Scientist, General Dynamics C4 Systems; Mieczyslaw M. Kokar, PhD, Northeastern University; Mark Cummings PhD, Managing Partner enVia

Next-generation communication systems are presented with many design challenges. We are moving into an age where the rules for spectrum access may change faster than new equipment can be fielded and faster than new software for the equipment can be developed. At the same time, heterogeneity is increasing. The rate of development of new technologies and new air interface standards (AISs) is continuing to grow. Research is now exploring many new modes for finding spectrum, for negotiating for use of spectrum, for adapting the modulation to fit into available spaces, and for protocols by which radios can exchange their capabilities in this new field of Cognitive Radio and Dynamic Spectrum. More...


Simplifying Android Migration: Using Mobile Virtualization to Reduce Time, Risk and Cost
Rob McCammon, Open Kernel Labs

The Android mobile device platform from Google and the Open Handset Alliance has ignited the imagination of mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), developers and end users. Since its introduction, Android has enjoyed a rapidly growing market presence and bullish prospects for new deployments. Moreover, Android’s success as an open-source environment gives it additional momentum and rapid acceptance, and drives a fast-growing ecosystem of application developers. However, the underlying standard software components and an active developer community have not necessarily made it easier for OEMs to bring Android-based devices to market. More...


Choosing the Right Central Logic Device for Your Portable Design
By Amit Kapadiya, Marketing Manager, Nuvation

Most portable applications have a central logic device: field array programmable gate array (FPGA), digital signal processor (DSP) or microprocessor. Deciding the right device for your design is pivotal to the application capabilities and involves some important questions. More...


The Design and Verification Challenge for the Next Decade
Linda Fosler, Director of Marketing, Mentor Graphics Deep Submicron Division

“The real world is analog and computers are digital.” These nine words set the stage for the great circuit design challenges of the next decade. To quote G. Dan Hutchenson, president of VLSI Research, “virtual reality is possible only with mixed-signal chips,” and of course, every designer on the planet, from the creators of advanced weaponry to smart phones and cars that nearly drive themselves, is hot on the trail of virtual reality. More...


Model-Based Design Accelerates Functional Verification
David Lidrbauch, Product Marketing Manager, The MathWorks

Functional verification consumes from 50% to 65% of the development time and budget for today’s system-on-chip (SoC) projects. With fragmented tools and development methodologies that rely on manual scripting, collections of disparate verification tools, inter-tool incompatibilities with almost-standard transaction languages, and mismatched database sources, functional verification can itself become a project that deflects attention from the main development goals. Instead of optimizing and debugging product designs, engineers spend time debugging their workflow and compensating for gaps in their verification tool chain. More...



Video

Optimizing Video Encoders with Digital Signal Processors
Ajit Rao, Texas Instruments

Video compression allows for digital video encoding, using as few bits as possible while maintaining acceptable visual quality. However, video compression involves sacrificing some degree of picture quality for a lower bit rate that facilitates transmission and storage. In addition, compression requires a high level of performance from the processor as well as versatility in design, since different types of video applications have different sets of requirements for resolution, bandwidth and resiliency. The extended flexibility provided by digital signal processors (DSP) address these differences and take full advantage of the options offered by advanced video compression standards to help system developers optimize their products. More...


Reducing Power in Video-Intensive Portable Applications
By Mitch Dale, Director of Product Marketing, Calypto Design Systems

Despite the consumer’s seemingly insatiable desire for video-rich applications, minimizing power consumption and maximizing battery life remain absolute requirements for portable mobile devices. Navigating these conflicting objectives requires a holistic, comprehensive approach to saving power. Portable designers must deploy power saving-techniques throughout the design flow to achieve both standby and active power requirements.  More...


High-Speed Video Bus Battle in Portable Designs
Falk Alicke, Senior System Engineer, Texas Instruments

During the 80s, I vividly remember my friend sketching his first computer graphic image of a Marlboro cigarette box on a Commodore 64 screen. Using his DOS operating system, he programmed a software routine that would output the color value and address of every pixel and pixel fields onto the CRT screen. It took hours to finish the red, black and white image. More...



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